When you have a job like mine you need to be prepared to be misquoted. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a quote attributed to me that I simply never made. One time I read an article in a well-known weekly magazine quoting me with regards to ecstasy. The quote was great, in fact one of the best I had ever seen -“ it had a lot of big words in it and really made sense. Unfortunately I had never been interviewed by that magazine and it had nothing to do with me at all.
Last weekend I was quoted in one of the Sunday papers regarding drink spiking. On the whole I was pleased with the piece but as always elements of the story had been over-simplified. Basically my belief on the issue of drink spiking is that it is over-reported. There has been a great deal of media coverage on the subject and it is high in the public consciousness. If there was any concrete evidence to back up some of the claims I would be less suspicious but even when people are tested in the hours after the suspected event there is rarely any presence of a drug identified. I also have a problem with the drugs frequently identified as being used by drink spikers -“ rohypnol has not been on the market for some time, ketamine would make you pretty sick and GHB, particularly when slipped into an alcoholic drink, could be lethal. It just doesn’t all add up.
I told this to the journalist but I was also extremely careful to emphasise that drink spiking does occur -“ particularly in certain circumstances. Drug-assisted sexual assaults and drug-assisted robberies do happen and we have evidence of these. However, these do not usually occur in nightclubs or bars and are not carried out by some stranger lurking in a dark corner. These crimes are usually committed by someone known to the victim. This is a message that is not getting out to the wider community and as a result people are not necessarily taking the appropriate precautions.
Unfortunately that is not the message that the paper conveyed either. Instead of telling both sides of the story, emphasising where the real dangers lie, the story concentrated only on the fact that I thought drink spiking was a myth. As a result I have been inundated by angry young women (and a couple of young men) who have wanted to argue the point -“ I even had David Koch from the Sunrise program challenge my comments.
Journalists have such a difficult job. Often they are given a story to write on a topic they know nothing about and be expected to have a good grasp of the issue, then write a piece within a matter of hours. They have to look at it from all angles and submit an article that not only informs but also maintains the reader’s interest. The drug issue is a complex one. There are no black and white answers -“ it is all shades of grey. Trying to get those messages across in a 200-word article can be extremely difficult and as a result there is much misinformation surrounding the whole drug debate.
Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug, and no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?